Roskilde Music Festival Brews Social Awareness, One Beer at a Time


Roskilde Music Festival Denmark 2015

To those not familiar with northern Europe’s largest music festival, Denmark’s Roskilde is known for blending social and environmental causes with great music to add a dash of enlightenment to entertainment. Its 2015 festival, which wrapped up on Sunday, took its musical activism to a new level with two beer-related cause marketing efforts: a “piss to pilsner” project and a crowdsourced beer design.

On the first count, organizers aimed to collect 25,000 liters of urine from more than 100,000 festival-goers this year, whose “contributions” were collected in a metal trough with specially-designed storage tanks, to be transported to nearby fields to fertilize malting barley for brewing beer.

The beer that will be produced should be ready for the 2017 festival. “It’s about changing our approach to waste, from being a burden to being a valuable resource,” said Leif Nielsen from the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC), Roskilde’s not-for-profit “beercycling” partner, to the Guardian.

“The huge amount of urine produced at festivals was having a negative impact on the environment and the sewage system,” he added. “But beercycling will turn the urine into a resource.”

For female festival-goers and performers, cardboard ‘urine directors’ were placed next to the urinals. Headliners included Florence and the Machine, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams and Sir Paul McCartney. “We’ve got urinals right next to the stages where the acts will play, so we’re hoping to collect some rock star pee as well,” said the DAFC’s Marie Grabow Westergaard to the Guardian.

Roskilde Music Festival  2015 Tuborg beer

On the more traditional beer front, Roskilde organizers crowdsourced designs for this year’s edition of 3 million Tuborg festival beer cans. Winning 60% of the votes, Louise Johansen’s design was a mash-up of Roskilde Festival stories meant to inspire sharing.

From crowdsourcing its limited edition beer label by Tuborg to recycling festival-goers’ urine into a future beer to selling organic beers, spirits and mixers and recycled plastic cup , Roskilde’s brand of social activism is a brew apart. The annual eight-day event is run by a Danish non-profit that donates all profits to charity after each festival, and this year it expects to donate between DKK 15 and 18 million (€ 2-2.5 million).

Since 1971 the music extravaganza has generated about € 26.4 million (2013) to Doctors without Borders, Amnesty International, Support the Victims in Iraq, Save the Children and The World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Roskilde prides itself on being an eco-conscious festival, also promoting car-sharing with partners Volkswagen and GoMore in a deal that designated 100 free parking spots to car-sharers close to the festival site. Since 2014, the festival has joined forces with the Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark and produced 27.5 tons of food which was given to the homeless. The project won a Green Operations Award at European Festival Awards in January.

Even so, it admits that most attendees come for the music and fun, with the social purpose secondary, with one in four attendees “indifferent” to its non-profit status and social responsibility projects (which could be found in its Rising area during the festival) and four out of five ignorant to its behavior change efforts by its own research.

“We believe that music and art can change the world,” the festival’s mission states. “We believe that a festival can trigger and reinforce a social movement of young people who want something more than just themselves. In 2015 we want to engage young people to reflect, to speak. We want to give them a voice and let them make suggestions for inspiration to create positive change within the theme of youth unemployment and youth solidarity.”

And this year, they certainly weren’t pissing around.


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